Writer Publishes and Markets Bestseller from Home

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Having spent a year fruitlessly seeking a publisher, Jonathan Chamberlain decided to self-publish a book on vulgar English slang, entitled Vulgar English & Sex Slang and to distribute the book solely from the website http://www.vulgarenglish.com. Reviewing the book recently, Jurgen Juchtman, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Bielefeld newspaper, Neue Westfaelische Zeitung, wrote: "Personally, I found it very funny, and I have learned a lot already." The result of this one review has been a flood of orders. "Clearly, there is a huge demand for a book like this," Chamberlain said. "If these results are replicated elsewhere, this book will be a major bestseller."

Is the German city of Bielefeld already gearing itself up for the London Olympics of 2012? Or are Bielefelders preparing for a Manchester United – Bayer Leverkusen Champions League final? Or do they just like to swear a lot? Whatever the case, orders have been flooding in for Jonathan Chamberlain’s book: Vulgar English & Sex Slang.

"These are not impulse buys," Chamberlain says. "The book is not available in any bookshop. It can only be bought through my website at http://www.vulgarenglish.com." Book buyers are responding to a review in the local Bielefeld newspaper. Jurgen Juchtman, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Neue Westfaelische Zeitung, said of the book: "Personally, I found it very funny, and I have learned a lot already."

"If you extrapolated these sales results across Europe, Vulgar English & Sex Slang would be top of the European bestseller lists," Chamberlain says. "Clearly, I was right in thinking that there is a big demand for a book like this."

Jonathan Chamberlain is a language teacher who realised there was no book on the market to help language learners deal with the increasingly common use of vulgar words and phrases in everyday spoken English. As Czech au-pair, Lenka Sedlarova, put it: "The English we learn at school doesn’t help us understand the real language that we hear on television and on the street."

Until 1970, films were linguistically pure. But in that year two films – MASH and Myra Breckenridge - broke the F-word barrier. "Now, thirty years on," Chamberlain says, "it is almost impossible to find a film aimed at grown-ups that does not contain the f-word. At the same time the word ‘adult’ has gone from meaning a grown-up person to being an advertisement for sexual content as in ‘adult films’. Now we have films aimed at young teenagers called The Spy Who Shagged Me. The world has changed – but our approach to teaching students what we think is appropriate for them hasn’t changed."

Having written the book, Chamberlain tried to interest publishers in the book. No-one was interested. "The subject is still very sensitive," he says. Surprisingly, it was the religious swear words as much as the sexual ones that seemed to be the problem. But Chamberlain backed his hunch that there was a big market for such a book and published it himself. He now stocks the book under his bed, in his son’s bedroom and anywhere else in his house there is a spare corner.

"I decided that the risks of normal book distribution were just too high and having no spare cash to take any risks whatsoever, I had no choice but to try an innovative solution and market the book solely through my website http://www.vulgarenglish.com."

Chamberlain calls Vulgar English & Sex Slang an English language resource for the real world. "I have written it in a straightforward way, giving lots of examples of how the words are used. It is a serious, educational work but it is also attractively designed. I was very fortunate in persuading a designer to get involved in putting it out on a profit-sharing basis. His wife also just happened to be the best illustrator we could possibly have asked for."

Vulgar English & Sex Slang has chapters on religious swear words, slang words for parts of the body, insults and other aggressive language, the f-word, words associated with the lavatory and a miscellany of words relating to sex. "Take a simple vulgarity like ‘bugger,'" Chamberlain explains. "In my book, I describe 18 different ways this word is used in contemporary English." The chapter on the f-word explains over 60 different uses of the word. The book deals with both US and British vulgarisms. There are also short word histories of the most well known vulgar words.

Chamberlain has also collected nearly 5,000 slang words and phrases for the parts of the body we are normally shy of talking about in public. These lists are available separately from his website.

Vulgar English & Sex Slang is 340 pages, illustrated, and costs US$24.50 (including packing and postage to anywhere in the world.)

"Twenty years ago we could afford to ignore this area of language but not any more," Chamberlain argues. "This vulgar use of language has now become so mainstream, that the question is no longer: Is it acceptable to teach this vocabulary? Now the question is: Is it acceptable not to teach it?"

To support his argument that it is dangerous not to teach vulgar vocabulary, Chamberlain points to the sad case of Hattori Yoshihiro, a 16-year-old Japanese high-school exchange student in Baton Rouge, Louisiana who, on October 28, 1992, was shot dead because he didn't understand the slang meaning of "Freeze!". "If this can happen with non-vulgar slang, what are the dangers of misunderstanding the increasingly common use of vulgar slang?" he asks.

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